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Mason v. Brewer

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 27, 2018

TYRONE MASON, Petitioner,
SHAWN BREWER, Respondent.


          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Tyrone Mason is incarcerated in a Michigan state prison and petitions the Court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Mason challenges his conviction for two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and he has also filed a motion for equitable tolling of the limitations period. Respondent did not file a response to the motion and, instead, filed a motion for dismissal of the petition for failure to comply with the limitations period. The Court finds equitable tolling of the limitations period unjustified and will therefore grant the motion to dismiss.


         Following a jury trial in Recorder's Court for the City of Detroit, Mason was convicted of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. On December 16, 1985, he was sentenced to 40 to 120 years' imprisonment. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions on direct appeal. People v. Mason, No. 91388 (Mich. Ct. App. July 21, 1988) (ECF No. 8-8). The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Mason, No. 83884 (March 7, 1989) (ECF No. 8-9).

         On February 25, 1991, the trial court denied Mason's motion for resentencing. See ECF 8-16, PgID 1110. On September 13, 1991, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied Mason's delayed application for leave to appeal. ECF 7-2, PgID 134. Mason did not seek leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. See ECF 8-11.

         On September 18, 2014, Mason attempted to file a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court. The trial court ordered the motion returned without filing for failure to comply with Michigan Court Rule 6.502(D). See ECF 8-13.

         On March 27, 2015, Mason filed another motion for relief from judgment. The trial court denied this motion, too. ECF 8-15. The Michigan Court of Appeals subsequently denied Mason's application for leave to appeal, People v. Mason, No. 332284 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 3, 2016), and on January 1, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court likewise denied leave to appeal, People v. Mason, 500 Mich. 934 (Jan. 31, 2017).

         On June 9, 2017, Mason concurrently filed the instant habeas corpus petition and motion for equitable tolling. ECF 1, 2. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the petition was not timely filed and that equitable tolling is not warranted. ECF 7. Mason did not file a response.


         Respondent argues that the petition is barred by the one-year statute of limitations. Habeas petitions filed after April 24, 1996 are governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). AEDPA imposes a one-year limitations period for habeas petitions like Mason's. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). A prisoner must file his petition within one year of the "date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review . . . or the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A), (D). The time during which a prisoner seeks state-court collateral review of a conviction does not count toward the limitation period. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2); Ege v. Yukins, 485 F.3d 364, 371-72 (6th Cir. 2007). A properly filed application for state post-conviction relief tolls the limitation period, but does not reset the limitation period at zero. Vroman v. Brigano, 346 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2003).

         Mason concedes that, absent equitable tolling, his habeas petition is untimely. Mason's conviction became final in 1989, well before AEDPA's effective date, April 24, 1996. Prisoners whose convictions became final before AEDPA's effective date were given a one-year grace period, until April 24, 1997, to file their federal habeas petitions. Jurado v. Burt, 337 F.3d 638, 640 (6th Cir. 2003). The limitations period is statutorily tolled during the pendency of a properly filed application for state-post conviction relief. Vroman, 346 F.3d at 602. Mason's state court filings did not statutorily toll the limitations period because all but one of his motions for post-conviction relief were filed well after the one-year limitations period expired. Mason is therefore correct that his petition is untimely unless the limitations period is equitably tolled.

         AEDPA's one-year limitations period is not a jurisdictional bar and is therefore subject to equitable tolling where a habeas petitioner "shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing." Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). Mason argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the limitations period because he suffers from a lack of financial resources, has a long history of mental illness, has been "heavily medicated at all times relevant to the preparation and filing of a habeas corpus petition, " is illiterate, and only recently learned about the availability of habeas corpus relief. ECF 2, PgID 103-04.

         Mason's ignorance of the availability of habeas corpus relief and lack of resources to hire an attorney do not justify equitable tolling. The Sixth Circuit has consistently held that ignorance of the law is insufficient to warrant equitable tolling. See Allen v. Yukins, 366 F.3d 396, 403 (6th Cir. 2004). Mason's lack of funds to retain an attorney is also not a ground for equitable tolling, Reeves v. Campbell, 708 Fed.Appx. 230, 235 (6th Cir. 2017), nor is his illiteracy, Cobas v. Burgess, 306 F.3d 441, 444 (6th Cir. 2002).

         A petitioner's mental incompetence can constitute an extraordinary circumstance justifying equitable tolling of the one-year limitations period. Ata v. Scutt, 662 F.3d 736, 742 (6th Cir. 2011). In Ata, the Sixth Circuit held that to be entitled to equitable tolling for mental incompetence the petitioner must show that he was mentally incompetent and that his incompetence caused the late filing. Id. at 742. The petitioner must show "a causal link between the mental condition and untimely filing[.]" Id. A mental impairment "‘might justify equitable tolling if it interferes with the ability to understand the need for assistance, the ability to secure it, or the ability to cooperate with ...

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